A Tale of One City

Curiosity brought us to Dortmund, the first stop on our “Cities with a Beer Style”  tour. Dortmund is the home of Dortmunder Export, a style that is disappearing. Dortmund was once a steel and coal town and Export was the beer of the workers. In the 1970s-80s, these industries died and the jobs along with them. As a result, Export suffered as well.

Kronen Export
Kronen Export

As the industries died, the Dortmund breweries went through a series of mergers. The medium-sized breweries bought smaller breweries only to be gobbled up by those bigger than them later on. In the end, there were  just two breweries left, Dortmund Union Brauerei (DUB) and Dortmunder Actien Brauerei (DAB). Today, Export is a small fraction of their production.

We were curious to visit Dortmund and see what was left of their beer culture.

An early morning flight from Munich got us to Dortmund quickly. We made our way into the city center and dropped our bags at our hotel. We scheduled to meet  Barry Masterson, one of the co-founders of Irish Craft Brewers. Barry, a native Dubliner, now lives in nearby Münster. Having returned from a business trip to San Diego the day before, Barry braved jetlag to meet us at Wenkers Brauhaus.


At Wenkers, we tried Export for the first time, as well as the two house beers, an Urtrüb (an unfiltered lager) and Schwarzbier. Wenkers, a brewpub until about 10 years ago when they sold their brewing equipment, has their beers brewed at nearby Hövels Hausbrauerei.

Hearing us speak English, Wenkers’ manager, Jörg, started chatting with us and gave us more information about Dortmunder Export beer. Jörg turned out to be quite knowledgeable about Dortmund beer history and the current attempts to resurrect the style. We also learned about Stösschen, a small glass of beer the miners and steel workers would drink for breakfast.

Merideth with a DBB Export
Merideth with a DBB Export

With a few beers under our belts it was time to see a new brewery on the Dortmund scene. Barry had been nice enough to arrange for a visit to Dortmund Bergmann Brauerei, a brewery working to resurrect the Export beer style. In the 1970’s, a larger brewery purchased Bergmann, then promptly shut it down. The current owner, Thomas Raphael, purchased the name a few years ago. The recipes were lost, so he tapped the brains of all the former brewery workers he could find in order to recreate the beer.

The brewery we visited is new and Bergmann has not yet started brewing at the location. So unfortunately, it didn’t count on the List. Thanks to Barry for setting up the visit and Jonas and Mark for giving us the tour and whisking us around town.

The brewhouse at Hövels Hausbraurei
The brewhouse at Hövels Hausbraurei

Together with Barry, we walked over to Hövels Hausbrauerei, the one brewpub in town. The main beer at Hövel’s is not Export, but rather a beer called ‘Original’. An amber colored beer with a sweet taste, Original is nothing like Export.

Jörg suggested we ask for the brewer Martin, but when we arrived, Martin was no longer around. We settled in for some lunch and beer. Jörg, taking care of business at the brewery, came up to our table and offered us a tour. We graciously accepted and descended into the cellar brewery. We were happy that this one did count on the List.

Discussing the merits of Export
Discussing the merits of Export

The three of us enjoyed Wenkers, so we decided to return there. Together we discussed the merits of the Export beer style. In the end, we decided that Export is not a bad beer, the style simply lacks distinction.

Ever helpful Jörg introduced us to Gerhard, a freelance tour guide who leads walking tours of Dortmund’s beer scene. Gerhard explained that Export costs about 12% more to produce than Pilsner. With little taste difference between the two, most breweries opt to brew Pilsner. The three of us would have liked to ask him more questions about the decline and current resurrection of the Export style, but he was actually leading a tour and could only take a few minutes with us.

The old DUB breweriy is being converted into a cultural center
The old DUB brewery is being converted into a cultural center

Eleven hours after first meeting Barry, we called it a night. He traveled home on the train and we went back to our hotel. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share a few pints with Barry again in the future.

It was an interesting experience. Not knowing what to expect from Dortmund, I guess I didn’t expect to meet passionate beer people. How wrong I was. Despite the demise of Export, the people we met really cared about their Dortmunder beer history and culture. They were definitely passionate people who would like Export to be popular once again.


Back in Munich

The walk to Kloster Andechs
The walk to Kloster Andechs

Another long (and fortunately) uneventful day of travel landed us in our favorite beer city, Munich. We used our two days in the Bavarian capitol to recover from jet lag before starting our beer adventures.

We arrived at our hotel in the city center and had just enough time to take a quick shower before jumping on the train to Herrsching. We headed for one of our favorite breweries, Kloster Andechs, something we had been unable to do our last several times in Munich.  We also had a date with our friend Willy,  A-B’s hop guy in Europe who we first met last September.

Apparently the previous week in Munich was full of sun and warm temperatures, but on our first day the weather was chilly and rainy. The rain fell lightly during our train journey until we reached our destination. Exiting the train in a downpour, we dreaded the 45 minute walk to the monastery in heavy rain. But we refused to take the bus, the other means of getting up to the kloster from the train station. Luckily the rain let up a few minutes after leaving the train station and we reached the monastery fairly dry… well except for the sweat running down our faces.

Enjoying a Dunkel at Kloster Andechs
Enjoying pickles, dampfnudel and our Dunkels at Kloster Andechs

We quickly found Willy and decided to sit outside in the covered part of the beer garden. The hot, steamy and loud braustüble was not a good jet lag recovery atmosphere. Once situated outside, I went for a round of beers while Willy headed to get some food.

It was good to be back at Andechs after a three year absence. As we caught up with Willy, we enjoyed the Andechs beer offerings, Helles, Dunkel and Doppelbock.  We even tried the Apfelweiß, a  mixture of apple juice and Weißbeer. Not a lover of beer cocktails, adding apple juice to Weißbeer seemed to me to be a good way to ruin a perfectly good beer.  Luckily, Willy ordered it so my manhood never came into question.

With our evening complete, it was time to head back to Munich for some much needed sleep.

Sunday’s weather dawned better, which was important because the plan was to visit two beer gardens new to us. On the advice of Willy, we also added a third. The Königlicher Hirschgarten, an Augustiner beer garden a short S-Bahn ride outside of central Munich.

Löwenbräu Keller

Before hitting the beer gardens, we walked to the Löwenbräu Keller. We had been there on a previous trip but hadn’t counted it on “the List”,  because I wasn’t sure about the location of the brewery. This is rather stupid on my part because the monstrous brewery, I learned  just recently, is almost directly across the street. Walking around the corner from the Keller, the Löwenbräu brewery cannot me missed. It butts up to its neighbor brewery Spaten.

With the brewery location verified, we joined the Sunday morning crowd in the Keller. I think we were supposed to have Weißbier  but each of us went with our respective Munich favorites, Helles for Merideth and Dunkel for myself. With a lot to do, we only had time for a quick half-liter.

Ein Maß at the Königlicher Hirschgarten

We made a short stop at one of our favorite beer gardens, the Seehaus. Then it was off to the Hirschgarten, an easy 5 minute walk from the Laim S-Bahn station.

The largest of Munich’s beer gardens with 8,000 seats, the Hirschgarten was the former royal hunting grounds (Hirsch means deer in German). Even today, deer wander the park, though they all must have been hiding from the large crowds the day of our visit.

The Hirschgarten’s other claim to fame is that they are the one of the few remaining beer gardens where you select your liter mug from a cabinet and wash it before having it filled.

Tradtional Bavarian dancing
The May Pole dance

We easily found a seat and each ordered ein Maß and some lunch. There were a number of people in traditional outfits and we learned from the menu that it was “Trachtentag”. This is a day when the locals dress up in traditional clothes and perform traditional songs and dances. We were treated to everything from traditional Chevy Chase slap dance to an accordion accompanied by the cracking of horse whips. Most impressive was the intricate May pole dance, where the dancers wound the colored ribbons around the pole.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Hirschgarten and passed on visiting the other beer gardens. The weather was beautiful, so we enjoyed our liters and the entertainment in the sunshine. The others would have to wait for our next visit to Munich.

Dinner at the Wirtshaus Ayinger
Dinner at the Wirtshaus Ayinger

We ended our day with our two traditional Munich stops. First, Weisses Brauhaus for a Hefe Weizen. Then it was up the street to the Wirtshaus Ayinger for Kellerbier and dinner. We had a fun-filled day but it was time to retire. We had an early flight to Dortmund on Monday.


Heading Back to Germany

This will be our ninth visit to Germany, which ties it with Ireland as the country we most frequently visit. The beer, food, scenery and German people keep us returning to our favorite country for beer travel.

With Wolfie at the Porterhouse in Dublin

But this trip is extra special. We are going over for our friend Wolfgang’s 50th birthday party. We’ll join the horde of his friends descending on Mannheim the last weekend in July for fun, merriment and  punk show.

Prior to Wolfgang’s birthday party weekend, we are stopping in Munich and embarking on a “City with a Beer Style” tour. We will visit three German cities: Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Cologne. Each has it’s own unique style of beer.

The Biergarten at Kloster Andechs

We are using our short time in the much beloved city of Munich to get our European legs, visit  a few biergartens, see friends, and of course drink some liters.

While in Munich we’ll make another pilgrimage to Kloster Andechs. The trek was something we used to fit in to our schedule every time in Munich, but on our  last few visits we haven’t had the time. The walk, beer, food, and atmosphere all make Kloster Andechs one our favorite breweries.

After getting adjusted to being back in Europe, we head north for some new beer adventures.

Dortmund Union Brauerei (DUB)

Our first new city will be Dortmund. There we’ll search for Dortmunder, which is a native beer style, not a city resident. Back in the day, this beer was popular with the region’s coal miners and steel workers. Think of Dortmunder as a cross between a Helles and a Pilsner.

Unfortunately, over the last decades, the style has suffered the ill effects of brewery mergers. The two major breweries in Dortmund, DAB and DUB, have gobbled up the smaller competitors. The style that put Dormund on the beer map is now only a small portion of their production. Today, a few private breweries are trying to revive this brew and restore it to it’s past glory.

Zum Uerige in Düsseldorf

From Dortmund, we travel down the road to Düsseldorf, the home of the top fermented Altbier. Alt means ‘old’ and the name is simply a reference to the fact that the brew predates bottom fermenting beers.

Unlike it’s neighbor in Dortmund,  Altbier is thriving in Düsseldorf, with breweries in the Altstadt serving the copper-colored brew from wooden barrels.

Our last stop on the ‘German Cities with a Beer Style’ tour is Cologne, the home of Kölsch. Another top fermenting brew, the golden-hued Kölsch may be the ultimate session beer. It certainly makes for a enjoyable afternoon with friends.

Enjoying a few Kölsch at Früh am Dom

The waiters buzz around with their trays, called a Kranz, filled with 7 ounce glasses, called a Stange, of Kölsch. They dispense the brew with amazing speed. Once a Stange is empty they drop off a new beer, adding a tick mark to the beer mat. The beer deliveries stop and the ritual comes to an end when the mat is placed on top of the glass. Our last time at Früh am Dom, one of Cologne’s main Kölsch bars, six of us finished with 40 tick marks on our mat.

After Cologne, we are off to Mannheim for three days of revelry celebrating Wolfie’s 50th birthday. Interspersed with the beer drinking, there will be a couple of brewery visits.

Enjoying a few Eichbaums with Ute and Wolfgang in Mannheim
Enjoying a few Eichbaums with Ute and Wolfgang in Mannheim

The culmination of our trip is a punk show headlined by The Dreadnoughts, an Irish punk band from Vancouver, BC. A good time is sure to be had by all.

We hope to add a dozen new breweries to the list, which will put us within sight of reaching 500 by the end of the year.

What is a Beer Geek?

In the 90’s we started referring to ourselves as ‘beer geeks’. Back then, the moniker for us had nothing to do with being able to discern and describe the subtle nuances of beer. Heck, we can’t even do that now. It was more a way to convey the lengths to which we would go for good beer. Living in Oakland, it was commonplace for us to travel to some far off brewpub, such as Anderson Valley, have a few beers and head back home.

Enjoying a White Ale at Telegraph Brewing Company
Enjoying a Golden Wheat Ale at Telegraph Brewing Company

Our Independence Day mini beer tour stirred up in me feelings of nostalgia about our early gonzo travels for beer. We had been wanting to visit Telegraph Brewing in Santa Barbara for quite some time but hadn’t had a chance to fit it into our schedule. Then, a beer release made for an imperative trip.

At the end of June, Firestone Walker released their Double IPA, Double Jack. Offered  in limited quantities, I knew I would have to seek out Double Jack somewhere else because it would most likely not make it to the Monterey Peninsula. A visit to the brewery seemed to be the best bet. Armed with a reason to head south on Hwy 101, we decided to go all the way to Santa Barbara first, then hit Paso Robles on the way home. Voila!… our July 4th beer tour was born.

Stout wowing the beach goers in Santa Barbara
Stout wowing the beach goers in Santa Barbara

Early on July 4th, we loaded Porter and Stout into the car  and were soon zooming south. We welcomed the cool weather on this holiday because we wanted to bring the dogs. Going away in a couple of weeks, quality time with the pups was important. After four hours of driving, we found ourselves on a beach in beautiful sunny Santa Barbara. The dogs were pleased to get out of the car and Stout was soon catching the frisbee while Porter did his normal hound dog thing. But we weren’t in Santa Barbara to go to the beach. So after a quick walk, it was time to try some beer.

Telegraph Brewing
Telegraph Brewing

I’ll admit I am a sucker for breweries that are really casual and laid back. I love the roll up the door, ”c’mon in and have a beer” attitude,  a seemingly simple concept not grasped by all breweries.  Telegraph Brewing gives off that exact vibe.  Arriving a half hour after they opened, we joined a small crowd in the tasting area of their industrial space to try a few beers.

Tasters at Telegraph Brewing
Tasting beer at Telegraph Brewing

There were four beers to try: White Ale, Golden Wheat Ale, California Ale and Stock Porter. We both ordered the $6 taster set which included a sample of all four beers plus a 10 ounce pour of our favorite. Telegraph also sells 10 oz  glass and 16 oz pints, plus growlers, bottles and kegs to go.

The beers were worth the four hour drive. I liked all four with the White Ale and the Stock Porter being the standouts for me. The White Ale, a Belgian-style Wit, was a perfect accompaniment for the sunny Santa Barbara weather. And the Stock Porter, a blend of fresh and barrel aged beer, hit the spot with its chocolaty, roasted flavor and 5.7% ABV. Merideth’s star was the Golden Wheat Ale.

We could have hung out all afternoon, but we needed to head back north. Buying a few bottles for home, we rejoined the dogs and started back up Hwy 101 to find some Double Jack.

Enjoying a Double Jack at Firestone Walker in Paso Robles
Enjoying a Double Jack at Firestone Walker in Paso Robles

A couple hours later we reached our halfway home point, the Firestone Walker tasting room in Paso Robles. And I was drinking a Double Jack.

What a wonderful beer! I am a huge fan of Pliny the Elder but I might like Double Jack a little better. It has a little more malt balance to go with the hop bomb characteristics. My only fault with Double Jack is that it might be a little too easy to drink for a 9.5% beer.

Firestone Walker was a quick visit. Despite our early start, it was already getting late and the dogs were hungry.  Back on Hwy 101, we continued north for the last two hours home.

After almost 12 hours on the road, we were back at home relaxing in front of the TV and enjoying a brewery fresh Union Jack. What a perfect ending to a nice July 4th with the family.

Enjoying a Double Jack at Firestone Walker in Paso Robles
Enjoying a Double Jack at Firestone Walker in Paso Robles

I am a huge fan of Firestone Walker’s Union Jack IPA. So, when I heard they were making a Double IPA version, Double Jack, I had to try it. Recently released and only in limited quantities, I knew I would have to seek out Double Jack as it wouldn’t be coming to the Monterey Peninsula. Visiting the brewery in Paso seemed to be the best bet.

New beergeek.TV Episode – Ales of Wales

Merideth pulling a pint at Kilverts in Hay-on-Wye

“Ales of Wales” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

We didn’t know what to expect from our journey to Wales. It was only a friend’s off-handed comment that brought us across the Irish Sea in the first place. With a little research, we learned several things about Wales; they have a strange language, there is a really tall mountain and, most importantly, there is a burgeoning craft beer movement brewing real ale.

So enjoy our Welsh adventures…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.